Work stoppages worsen under UCP

While the number of work stoppages under the UCP’s first 3 years in power has been the same under the NDP’s entire term, the number of workers affected and days missed has skyrocketed.

Earlier this summer, Collective Bargaining Information Services of Alberta Labour and Immigration released a report outlining all the “legal” work stoppages in the province between 2000 and 2021, as well as the first half of 2022.

Over the last 21.5 years, there were a total of 98 work stoppages. These were split pretty evenly between public and private, as far as the actual number of stoppages.

The public sector work stoppages involved a higher number of workers, but stoppages in the private sector saw more days not worked and more person days not worked.

Here’s that information in a table:

Work stoppages started504898
Work stoppages terminated474693
Workers involved18,86030,68849,548
Work days not worked2,9901,4144,403
Person days not worked453,498383,756837,254

And here are what stoppages started looked like over the last 21.5 years:

We see that Alberta has seen far fewer work stoppages in recent years than it did in the first 13 years or so. In fact, we haven’t seen more than 3 stoppages a year since 2013.

The single highest year was 2002, when Alberta saw 24 work stoppages, 23 of which were public sector. No other year has come close. The second highest year was 2012, but that was only 8.

The premier in 2002 was Ralph Klein, and even though the data shows 23 public sector strikes, they were all teachers at various school districts throughout the province. The ATA had launched a province-wide teachers strike after the province refused to negotiate with the ATA. Over 21,000 teachers participated in the work stoppage.

Actually, speaking of Klein, here are what work stoppages looked like under each premier during this 20-year period. (I left out Dave Hancock and Jim Prentice, as both of them were each in office for just a few months and combined saw only 1 work stoppage.)

Clearly, Klein had the most during his term (and this wasn’t even his full term, just the portion that fell within this reporting period). And each succeeding premier saw fewer total work stoppages.

Even Jason Kenney looks pretty good, eh?

But what if we look at stoppages per year? After all, Kenney’s first term hasn’t finished yet, and the others had varying term lengths, so this may not be the most accurate representation.

Oh. Well, that certainly shows a different story.

Klein is still the highest, but Ed Stelmach drops to third place. Alison Redford actually had the second highest per year stoppage count of the 5 premiers, just barely behind Klein. Klein’s per year count was 6.71, and Redford’s was 6.5

Rachel Notley has the lowest per year count of all the premiers in this chart, coming in at an average of 1.25 strikes per year. Kenney’s is 1.67 at just a little over 3 years into his term.

If we look at average number of workers per year involved in work stoppages per premier, Redford looks even worse:

On average, Redford saw over 5,700 workers go on strike every year she was in power. Compare that to Klein, who saw just under 4,200 per year. Stelmach was significantly lower at about 1,300 per year.

Notley and Kenney are the lowest, by far. Kenney has seen 419 workers involved in stoppages per year on average so far, and Notley saw roughly one-fifth that many: 84.5.

Let’s look at average work days not worked for each premier:

This chart doesn’t paint Redford in any better of a light. Per year, she saw the highest number of total work days not worked because of stoppages than any other premier, on average.

Under Redford, work stoppages led to an annual average of 423.7 work days not worked. Stelmach was next highest at 281.2, and Klein was actually in third, at 155.3. Kenney is currently at 217.7 per year on average.

Notley, so far, saw the lowest average number of work days missed per year because of stoppages, at only 62.5, the only premier to not break 100. That’s 85.2% lower than Redford and more than a third of the number seen under Kenney so far.

Finally, here’s person days not worked.

Klein is back on top. He had the most person days not worked (471,065), as well as the highest per year average (67,295). Redford had the third highest total number of person days (104,308) but the second highest average (52,154). Stelamch was second in total (165,224) and third in average (33,044.8).

Kenney and Notley round out the bottom of the list, with Notley being the lowest for both measures. Kenney has seen 82,289 person hours lost in his 3 years in office, while Notley saw only 9,568 lost during her 4-year term, the only premier to come in under 10,000.

Notley’s per year average was 2,392 person hours not worked. Kenney’s were more than 10 times that much at 27,429.7.

So while Notley wasn’t blemish free during her 4 years in office (she saw 5 work stoppages involving over 300 workers who missed a combined 250 work days), she had the lowest average number of work stoppages per year, the lowest average number of work days missed per year, and the lowest average number of person days missed.

Kenney’s still pretty low, all things considered. However, he’s higher than Klein in average number of workdays missed, coming in third highest, and he’s higher than Notley on every measure other than the total number of work stoppages under his term, where he’s tied with her.

Also, he saw only 2 public sector work stoppages over the last 3 years. Notley, on the other hand, saw 4 during her entire term.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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